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Emma Sulkowicz, an artist who defines themselves as non-binary, is most known for a performance of theirs called Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight), in which Sulkowicz was carrying around the college campus a mattress, after reporting having been raped on it. The performance was made to denounce how badly the authorities had held the case, not coming to any real conclusion. For an entire year they walked around with that mattress, helped from time to time by others. They kept a diary of the whole experience, that is exhibited with the documentation of the performance.
In the case of *, Sulkowicz was protesting for the celebration of the artist Chuck Close, standing in front of one of his mosaics at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York dressed almost only with asterisks. Chuck Close was reported to have made some bad comments on his female models, and Sulkowicz wanted to underline this sexist behavior putting a symbolic asterisk next to his name. Immediately after, the artist went to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and did the same thing with Picasso‘s Demoiselles d’Avignon, being Picasso an artist with a controversial point of view on women. [We wrote an article about sexist artworks that are commonly accepted by the art world, to see it click here].
Just a few days before, an article appeared on the New York Times, saying that the idea of specifying the artists’ guilts with an asterisk could not be possible, or the museums’ walls would have been empty in a second. This article triggered the creativity of Sulkowicz, who protested in their own way.